Temple-Wyoming Preview: Al Yankovic Edition

Temple-Wyoming Preview: Al Yankovic Edition

"I said





…QUERQUE-(QUERQUE)" --riff--

The Temple Owls are set to take over the World Wide Leader Saturday afternoon with games on both ESPN and ESPN 2. You'll find the football team on the flagship at 2 p.m ET.

Temple's matchup with Wyoming is the Owls' second bowl appearance in the last three seasons, but only their third in the last thirty-two. Having lost the 2009 EagleBank Bowl to UCLA, the program has not claimed a postseason victory since 1979.

Fortunately for their hopes of making history, they've drawn a very favorable opponent in the Cowboys.

[breaking down the Gildan New Mexico Bowl after the jump]

The Temple Rushing Attack vs. The Wyoming Defense
As Temple fans were delighted to find out upon learning the identity of their bowl opponent, Wyoming is absolutely dreadful against the run. Of all 120 FBS schools, the Cowboys finished the 2011 season 114th in rush yards allowed, surrendering an average of 230.1 yards per game.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Owls' offense finished seventh in the nation on the ground with an average of 256.7 yards per game. This is the kind of discrepancy you're just aching to find if you're filling out a 35-game bowl pick 'em (believe me, I did one yesterday).

For reference, when Wyoming met Utah State—the sixth best team in the country on the run, and only one spot ahead of Temple in that category—earlier this year, they were burned for a total of 308 rush yards. Pressing the point further, that game was only one of four occasions in which Wyoming yielded more than 300 rush yards this season.

Temple coach Steve Addazio has asserted over and over that his team prides itself on tough defense and an ability to run the football. Should they succeed on both those fronts against Wyoming, it stands to reason that they'll be leaving New Mexico a very happy football team.

Bernard Pierce's Last Game as an Owl?
Temple tailback Bernard Pierce could catapult himself up the draft charts with the a big performance in what could be his last college game.

Pierce has already submitted the perfunctory paperwork to begin the process of potentially leaving school for the professional ranks, though we understand this is a fairly common move for upper classmen and doesn't figure to shed any real light on his future intentions.

Still, its tough to think this won't be the last time Temple fans see Bernard play in an Owl uniform. After a history making junior season in which he claimed the schools all-time records for touchdowns in a game (5), season (25) and career (52), Pierce seems destined for the NFL. Factoring in his injury history and a possible hesitation to come back for his senior year out of fear for depreciating his draft stock, it stands to reason that the next time you see Bernard at Lincoln Financial Field, he'll playing on a Sunday.

The Temple Defense vs. the Wyoming Offense
Switching sides of the ball, the Cowboy attack isn't going to make life easy on the Owls' D. Posting the fourth-best turnover margin and eleventh fewest sacks allowed in the country, Wyoming won't be making many mistakes of its own.

Look for the Temple defense to hopefully benefit from extended rests provided by the offense's success on the ground. In the event Temple is able to control the clock and keep its Wyoming counterparts off the field, then the defense should be fresh to both shut down the Cowboys' offense, and take some runs at Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith.

As a matter of almost completely inconsequential note, Smith's backup is one Colby Kirkegaard. I just want to get one look at that kid for the sole purpose of a making a "Soren's kid" joke a la the Eagles' own Mike Kafka.

Wyoming Somewhat at Home in Albuquerque?
Saturday will be Wyoming's second trip to the New Mexico Bowl in the last three seasons. In their last appearance in 2009, the Cowboys defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs 35-28 in double-overtime.

It never hurts to have a bit of familiarity with a given location, especially considering the struggles for most college programs with any and all forms of travel.

Just Where in the Hell is Temple Anyway?
Good question. I was amused to see Keith Pompey's Friday report in which Wyoming LB Brian Hendricks confessed to not knowing where Temple was. I often wonder when the Owls play a game on national television if individuals in other parts of the country have any idea where the school is actually located. I now know that their cultural cache does not extend to our nation's northwest. Funny story.

(Ir)Relevant History
In the two team's only meeting, Wyoming downed Temple 38-23 in September of 1990. Not sure that outcome has a whole lot of import here.

And Finally
We've been working off and on with musical themes all season. Though the choice of this track off the 1999 Running with Scissors album felt a bit obvious (I always sound like Patrick Bateman when I re-read these sections), I succumbed to the realization that I might never again have the opportunity to pair this particular song with another sporting event.

Whatever tomorrow's outcome, thanks for following along this season. I hope to keep plenty of you around for our ongoing basketball coverage.

"So, whaddaya say, Al (aheheh), shall we press on?"

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).